Parshat Beha’alotcha

By Rabbi David Cohen:

“Va’yehi binsoa haAron”

Ramban cites a Midrash which takes a dim view of Klal Yisrael’s first journey away from Har Sinai. The Midrash states that the nation left the mountain, K’tinok ha’boreiach mi’bet ha’sefer, “Like a child running away from school,” happy to leave that holy place – in case Hashem had plans for giving them more mitzvos to perform. While they followed Hashem’s instructions concerning their journey, their attitude in leaving apparently left something to be desired.

Horav Aizik Sher, zl, wonders what part of Chazal’s statement underscores their actual failing: that they acted like children; or that they ran away from school? He posits that, in Slabodka (where he was Rosh Yeshivah), they claimed it was their childish behavior which was the reason for their later punishment. At Har Sinai, Klal Yisrael achieved unprecedented spiritual elevation. The loftiness of the experience, was without peer. Yet, soon after, they were able to act as children; to complain about food. How does an adult fall to the level of a child?

If they were able to act so, it is an indication that there had never been an “adult” relationship. We derive from here that one may be privy to the most earth-shattering experience, but if it does not transform him – it is a waste. One goes to shul – but leaves as soon as possible – not because he has to, but because he wants to. He simply has no interest in remaining in shul too long. Attendance at a function is determined by the manner in which one leaves. Does he want more – or does he just want to escape?